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Hearings set on annexation policy

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, September 7, 2013

The city’s planning & zoning commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday to finalize their recommendation on a proposed annexation plan for the city council’s approval.

But city officials want to make it clear: there are no plans to annex anything.

“The recommendation is for it not to change,” Dedra Ragland, the city’s planning director, said this week. “We’re just talking about policy, not looking to annex anything at this time. We just wanted everybody to understand the implications of annexing.”

An annexation plan is a legal term for the document that specifies which procedures would apply to the annexation of a particular area. Since 1999, cities have been required to have such a plan in place, and the hearing Tuesday is another step in a complex state law approved after the city of Houston involuntarily annexed the suburb of Kingwood, which had a population of 50,000 people.

“It’s a complicated matter, thanks to our legislators,” Ragland said. “We needed to understand the rules of the game. They’ve changed. There are protections in place for property owners.”

The P&Z has been working on updating the annexation plan for about a year and has held several hearings over the past few months to finalize it.

After Tuesday’s hearing, the panel will recommend the proposed updated policy and plan. The city council will hold a public workshop at its Sept. 23 meeting, then take action after a final public hearing on Oct. 14.

“The city council is going to look at a policy which would consider voluntary and involuntary annexation,” Ragland said. “Undoubtedly, voluntary annexations are better.

“But there are holes within our city limits, and it makes sense to go ahead and look at these to close up our boundaries. The kinds of issues you look at are, can we provide services? You have to do a fiscal impact analysis. The staff will have to bring the council a lot of information.”

If a property owner wants to be annexed, they can petition the city, and if the numbers make sense, that’s a fairly simple matter.

But when a city wants to annex property whose owner does not wish to be annexed, it gets complicated. For now at least, the city of Decatur doesn’t plan to do that.

Tuesday’s hearing is at 6 p.m. The council workshop is 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, and the hearing Monday, Oct. 14, is at 6 p.m.

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